October 3, 2020 | News | No Comments
The FBI is using a dubious facial recognition system and a database of hundreds of millions more photographs than previously thought to hunt for criminal suspects, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The massive database houses roughly 411 million photos amassed from sources such as driver’s licenses, visa applications, biometrics data, and passport applications, as well as surveillance camera footage, the GAO found in its report (pdf).
That number also includes 30 million civil and criminal mugshots—but, as Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) senior staff attorney Jennifer Lynch wrote in a blog post on Wednesday, the vast majority “are of Americans and foreigners who have committed no crimes.”
FBI officials did not report the potential civil liberties impact of the program until the audit, which breaks both agency policy and federal law, according to the GAO, which noted that 1974 Privacy Act limits the collection of personal data and requires agencies to disclose what kinds of information they are using.
The GAO began its audit to look into a program called the Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System (NGI-IPS or NGI), but found instead that NGI was part of a much larger operation known as Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (FACE) Services. While the FBI was known to be using facial recognition software, the new report reveals the scope of the program.
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